Residents of about 30 properties within a 5km-radius of the private airstrip on Black Range Road continue to call on council to not approve a development application (DA) for the airstrip to increase users to 37. The residents say the DA contains inaccuracies and is non-transparent and unsubstantiated.
The initial exhibition of the DA by applicant and airstrip owner Ted McIntosh received 38 objections and one in support.
Mr McIntosh says the 2013 Cobbler Road fire is why extending and realigning the airstrip (as approved in a 2014 DA) and increasing users are needed – to help firefighting operations.
“How this all came about was after the Cobbler Road fire. There was a meeting with the RFS captains the morning after and I explained what we could do if we had a local airstrip base for fires,” he said at a public planning forum at Council Chambers on March 13.
Mr McIntosh said he also obtained support from NSW RFS Superintendent Peter Alley in an email that the DA included as one letter of support.
Of the 34 letters of support, 30 are from those in the aviation industry. The others are from supt. Peter Alley, two members of state parliament and one resident 10km from the proposed site.
A majority of residents have questioned the validity of using the airstrip for firefighting services, since the owner and applicant aim to submit a subsequent DA for a community title subdivision (33.44ha) to construct 37 hangars if council approves the increase in users.
As well, the latest DA states that the site – bounded by Black Range Road to the north and by rural properties to the east, south and west – should be referred to as an air transport facility due to the proposed increase of users and likelihood of associated structures (e.g. hangars).
This must be considered in its entirety for what it is: an attempt to sneak this development through council one piece at a time at the expense of those who live here.- Jack Child, resident
James Payne, who has been in the Bowning RFS for 40 years (currently senior deputy), said that his understanding from a discussion with supt. Peter Alley was that “the RFS was not involved in the airstrip since it’s a private matter”. Payne added that water supply for firebombing aircraft is a major concern. “It has not been addressed adequately in the DA,” he said.
Mr Payne and others also point to existing services at nearby airstrips such as Goulburn, Cootamundra, Cowra as being more than sufficient.
Fellow resident Jack Child said: “The stated purpose of the 2014 DA was to achieve a safer airstrip for the applicant and emergency services. From a safer airstrip to 37 hangars. This must be considered in its entirety for what it is: an attempt to sneak this development through council one piece at a time at the expense of those who live here”.
In the initial 12-page environmental impact report as part of the DA, surveyor Bridget Wright at Diverse Project Solutions (DPS), whom Mr McIntosh engaged with for consultation, concludes that the development will “have negligible environmental impacts”. Noise impact was assessed qualitatively within a single paragraph of the submission.
Council, however, requested additional information, which required suitably qualified persons to assess noise and environmental impacts. At the council planning forum on March 13, Ms Wright – qualified in surveying but not in noise and environmental impacts – said she prepared the assessments accordingly. “I felt that it provided sufficient evidence.”
Other matters that council required more information on include flight paths, aircraft and user types, hours of operation, designated development, fuel storage, road traffic, and contamination.
Council has also referred the application to relevant external bodies, including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). A NSW OEH spokesperson said they “identified a series of shortcomings” in DPS’s environmental impact assessment and they provided recommendations. TransGrid has also reviewed the DA and provided the applicant with guidelines to ensure no easement traverses Lot 4 at the proposed site.
In DPS’s outline of flight paths, the conclusion says residences would not be affected. The proposed paths show little deviation from existing ones. At the planning forum, however, Ms Wright said that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s guidelines for landing areas allow any pilot to use an airstrip if the owner consents. Takeoff and landing frequencies and airstrip use any time from either direction are, therefore, at an owner’s discretion.
Resident Linda Thane, who has 21 years as an aviation environment specialist, said the Sydney–Melbourne path in the DA does not exist in Airservices Australia's visual terminal chart. “They’ve simply fabricated this flight path to make it look like we’re already under a busy corridor to justify increased users,” she said.
Once council completes review, it will provide an assessment report for council meeting on April 26 to determine the DA’s outcome.
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